Friday, August 13, 2010

Straight no Chaser

Boy do I love the city of Austin, Texas. For us music playing freakazoids there is no better one-stop town when it comes shows, bands, gigs, music festivals, and gear in general. As far as passion for true to-the-heart music loving, Austin definitely sits way up on the list. So when I discovered Chris Luton's Austin Retro amp & effects shop, I knew I was in for something good. It seems like more and more cats the last year or so have been gearing towards more traditional orientated gadgets, which to me is a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I love a new thing just as much as the next guy. It's just sometimes you need something that will hand it to you right there and then. This was exactly what Austin Retro's gear delivers, and just the thing needed to add a life to any signal. Some of the best memories I have I owe to the city of Austin. Now I can add a bit of Retro to it and make it that much better.


Austin Retro


Ah yes, the spectacular trio of Tone, Drive, and Level. This is a layout of controls that has been found on some of the best pedals of all time. Austin Retro adds to this killer collection of pedals with their Austin Retro Overdrive. It is no mystery what the Tone/Drive/Level knob configuration does. What makes this pedal such a winner in my book is it's ability to knock out spot-on TS-808 tones and then some. Holding the AR Overdrive in your hand you can feel the hand built, one-man shop, boutique quality. It is these pedals that always end up being winners in the music scene.

I pulled out the Tele, the Les Paul, and the Junior for this demo. I had one thing on my mind and that was rocking and rolling in as many tones/voices as possible. Along with these fantasmic guitars I also broke out a healthy trio of 2 tube amps, and a solid state Fender Eighty Five (a sleeper that a good buddy of mine turned me on to). Up to bat first was my Junior copy and AC15 based amplifier. I set the amp up slightly gritty, almost clean with just a touch of hair behind my playing. It is through these signals that a good overdrive pedals always flourishes. I pushed the signal further into a more of a subtle growl by rolling the pedal's level just passed unity gain, drive at 9'o'clock, and tone slightly warmer than my amp's. I was very impressed at how the pedal responded to my playing and pick attack. The sound was that of the amp itself being pushed and naturally driven, very nice for you cats that play clean tones and rely on pedals for your dirt. I turned up the pedal's level and drive controls a bit more and heard things get even richer and sappier. The aggression in the P90 pickup really adapted well to the Overdrive's tube-like saturation. Even when cranking the drive to the max I was still able to get usable spot-on saturation. Before swapping amp's I dialed the 15 watt amp into a medium overdrive and used the pedal to get to snarling lead tones. Boy how I love using the combination of an amp's dirt and pedal's grit to get mean sounding distortion tones. Another thing I really dug was how well the guitar's volume responded to the pedal's grit, therefore giving me an array of awesome tones to choose from on the fly. Next I set up the Les Paul and Deville amp. With the Deville I mostly always just set clean tones from it either using pedals to achieve my dirt tones or switching into another amp. I dialed in my favorite big booming clean tone, added a hint of reverb to the signal, and snapped the pedal on. Straight up at noon the Overdrive was able to create a great sounding rhythm tone. The humbuckers created this touch sensitive sound that bloomed and shrank the pedal's dirt with the touch of my hand. The harder I hit the strings, the more the pedal gave up. The lighter I played, the less snarl I received from the speakers. IN medium dirt setting the Overdrive dished out these amazing sounding blues and classic rock tones. The response of the pedal made it so that I didn't even have to roll down the guitar's volume to get a mellower sound. But when I did roll off either the guitar's volume or tone the results were stunning! In higher settings I was able to get some killer sounding overdrive/distortion tones. The pedal created the perfect amount of compression and broke up the signal in just the right places. With a touch of delay thrown in I got one of the most epic sounding lead tones I have ever heard. The sustain and break-up held on just long enough to not let the notes clash and conflict with one another. Very very nice stuff. With most pedals once you push them past noon things begin to get so muddy that it makes using the tone darn right impossible. This is not an issue when you have an intelligently build/designed pedal like this. Last I was able to turn a solid state amp into a howling, screaming, tube-like dream machine. Most cats give solid state amps a bad rap, but not me. If something sounds good, or more importantly feels right, it's ok in my book. One thing we can all agree on is the ability a solid state amp has for creating a greatly defined clean tone. Throw in the right dirt pedal and you're in heaven. This was exactly this type of experience with the Austin Retro Overdrive and Fender Eighty-Five. With the neck bucker and single coil equipped Tele on hand I was able to get some wonderful sounding tones in all pf the pedal's settings, from the lowest to the highest grit, and warmest to brightest. In low dirt settings the pedal's subtle grit blended with the amp's super clean nature to create an extremely defined overdrive sound. Every little accent, harmonic, and touch could be felt and heard. With the Tele bridge single coil pickup I was able to get these killer sounding blues and country rock dirt tones. I was able to get spank, clarity, size, and able to cut through any mix. With the neck bucker everything grew, became warmer, and richer. It was nice to have a dirt pedal that didn't play favorites. Lots of dirt pedals have a sweet spot, sometimes two if you're lucky. But the best overdrive pedals, pedals like these, have sweet spots from 0 to 10. I see this pedal easily becoming a go-to, collector, and rare find in days to come. There is a vibe about this pedal's sound that is all it's own, grab one and see for yourself. This is hands down one of the coolest, best sounding dirt boxes Analog War Cry has come across in a long time. I am hungry to see more pedals from these guys. One cool thing you can look forward to is Austin Retro is also on the move to bring us a couple amps, which I can only imagine by the sound of this pedal will sound spectacular. Keep your eye out for these cats, I've got a feeling it's on baby!


For more info on Austin Retro go to We will work our best to bring you more from these guys asap.

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